David W. Rohde is a University Professor Emeritus of Political Science. He received his B.S. from Canisius College in 1967 and his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1971. Rohde joined the Department as an Assistant Professor in 1970, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1973, and to Professor in 1978. He served as a University Distinguished Professor from 1992-1993 and from 1994 to 2005. Rohde is coauthor of Supreme Court Decision Making (1976), coeditor of Home Style and Washington Work (1989), author of Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House (1991), coeditor Why Not Parties? (2008), and coauthor of a series of fifteen books on U.S. presidential and congressional elections, the most recent of which is Change and Continuity in the 2008 and 2010 Elections (2012). Rohde is currently Ernestine Friedel Professor of Political Science and director of the Political Institutions and Public Choice Program at Duke University.
MSU Debate: What effect, if any, do you think U.S. legalization of marijuana, physician assisted suicide, prostitution, online gambling or human organ sales would have on the midterm election? Are any of these issues that you could see having a meaningful pull on key races?
DR: I think the only one of these issues that is actively involved in the midterms is legalization of marijuana. I believe it is on the ballot in at least two states, Alaska and I think Florida. Perhaps others. Plus there may be some residual effects in the states that have already legalized, like Colorado.
MSU Debate: There is a state ballot initiative in Alaska to legalize marijuana and many have argued that it will cause more Democrats to turn out for that race and possibly tip the election for U.S. Senate there. Would you agree or disagree with that and why?
DR: I think it is possible that this issue may have an effect on turnout where it is on the ballot, but it is hard to be more specific because so many other things affect turnout. Moreover, it is difficult to predict the direction of an effect because this issue could stimulate participation by both proponents and opponents. That said, I think many observers expect that it might stimulate more turnout among supporters because they are disproportionately young and young citizens are less likely than their elders to vote without such a stimulus.
MSU Debate: What effect, if any, would state or federal legalization or marijuana before the election have on the U.S. Senate race in Alaska? I could see an argument that state legalization before the election would eliminate the drive for more voters to turn out (no need to vote for something that’s already legal) but I could also see an argument that any sort of legalization would still energize a voting bloc because it shows that the candidate is in-line with what the voter is looking for.
DR: Given that the expectation is mainly for a turnout effect, I think that legislative action in advance would probably reduce the incentives for turnout.